Monocle Singapore Survey 2009

July 19, 2017 | Author: chorpharn4269 | Category: Singapore, Sustainability, Sustainable Energy, Airlines, Industries
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A monocle survey on the Singapore landscape. Done in 2009....


The Monocle Singapore Survey 2009

Finance, logistics, culture, tourism: a national survey of the forces shaping Singapore




Serving up in

August 2010

Monocle’s National Survey: Singapore There are few countries that can be seen in their entirety from just a few thousand feet above sea level but it’s the compact, city-state profile that makes Singapore such a curious player on the international stage and attractive hub for businesses from a host of sectors. As other nations have spent billions attracting investment and talent to create similar groupings of logistics companies, banks, hotel groups, respected academic institutions and technology brands, virtually all have to follow a model that Singapore’s been honing for decades. Having established itself as not only the most important commerce centre in Southeast Asia but also a benchmark for everything from civil aviation management to public housing development, the nation state is now staring out across the horizon and charting its next act to stay relevant and, more importantly, competitive. In a world that’s increasingly going point to point when it comes to travel (longer range, more fuel-efficient aircraft threaten major transit hubs such as Singapore’s Changi) and is also interested in one-stop solutions (will Shanghai eventually emerge as Asia’s singular global financial hub?), Singapore has its share of challenges in both the short and long term but it’s also been moving swiftly to develop new areas of expertise to diversify its offer. For the past three months monocle editors and writers have been shuttling in and out of Singapore to interview ceos, sample exhibitions, visit refineries and simply scope out the streets.While the scale and pace of development for the new integrated resorts beyond the financial district is breathtaking and the growth in medical tourism should be of concern to Bangkok up the road, the most impressive development in the country’s economy is the rise of a new class of young, globally minded entrepreneurs who are adding a new layer to the retail, restaurant, media and hotel scene. Clever duos such as Karen Wai and Kenny Leck and their bookstore and publishing business, and Jane Hia and her burgeoning cafés are a fresh force that are inspiring others to take risks and challenge convention in a society that has long had a top down approach to steering and stimulating economic development.With the government placing an emphasis (and significant funds) on attracting more creative industries while nurturing talent at home, Singapore is rewriting the mission for what it means to be a hub in the 21st century and hoping it will continue to lead and force others to follow. — tb Singapore National Survey



Transport: Singapore Airlines, Changi Airport and the International Cruise Terminal. Plus why you can get almost anywhere in Singapore in just 10 minutes. 016/017

Tourism: How Singapore is catering to its increasing visitor numbers, including the top hotels and the best bars and restaurants. Plus five neighbourhoods that you shouldn’t miss.

Contents/ Contributors


Technology & alternative energy: Biopolis science park and five Singapore technology innovations. Plus how the tiny nation is leading the way in its use of alternative energy and water solutions.

Editor Liv Lewitschnik

Writers Ben Bland (bb) Tyler Brûlé (tb) Katharine Ee (ke) Eric Ellis (ee) Liv Lewitschnik (ll) Daven Wu (dw)


020/025 006/007

State of the nation: Mapping the fortunes and future of the country, from the Central Business District to the port, the retail hotspots to the best neighbourhoods.

Darren Soh 009/011

Illustrators Robert Hanson Tokuma *** Special thanks to Antonia Chang

Finance/economy: An overview of Singapore’s booming business landscape including how it compares to Hong Kong in the financial stakes, the chairman of dbs bank and five Singaporean brands that could go global. 012/013

Logistics: Singapore’s is one of the world’s major trading and shipping hubs, with its giant port and forthcoming art storage space. Plus, Jurong Island, the world’s thirdlargest export refining centre.


Singapore National Survey

Arts & media: Singapore’s repositioning as a cultural centre, including its new National Art Gallery, auction houses, galleries and artists. Plus the best films, tv, radio, music and gaming, and the leading lights of the film industry, best books and top design creatives. 027/029

Fashion/retail How the country is turning from Italian labels to embrace “Made in Singapore” – we profile some homegrown talent, including two tailors, five hot designers and four fresh independent retailers. 030/033

Architecture/urbanism: An architectural survey of Singapore old and new. Plus new urban projects, the top firms and developers and rising architectural stars.


Lim Chu Kang

Sungai Buloh

Seletar Airport

Seletar Reservoir

Pulau Ubin island

Changi Village Choa Chu Kang

Singapore FreePort

Changi Airport

Serangoon Gardens

Toa Payoh

Bukit Timah Biopolis

Old School

Holland Village


Dempsey Katong village

Arab Quarter Stadium MRT station

Singapore Airlines Bras Basah MRT station National University of Singapore


Little India Chinatown


Marina Bay Sands Tiong Bahru Pasir Panjang

Marina South Cruise-ship terminal

Marina bay Sands area

Jurong Island PSA Corporation/port

Sentosa Island

State of the nation

Jurong Rock Caverns

Overview Singapore is small in size (but growing in area) and big in terms of diversity. Its population of 4.6 million consists of Chinese, Malays, Indians and foreign residents.With such a rich cultural mix, it’s no surprise that its creative output is so varied. From the hills of Chinatown to Little India’s bustling streets and the Arab Quarter, a new confidence is emerging among the young entrepreneurs who are reshaping their country.The Lion City abounds with investment opportunities in everything from petrochemicals at Jurong Island to retail outlets at Orchard Road and Ann Siang Hill, alternative energy in Tuas and biological research at Biopolis in the west.This is our survey of the people and powers transforming the nation. — ll

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Singapore National Survey

Singapore vs Hong Kong

The power of the Singapore dollar

Interview Koh Boon Hwee

Singapore’s fiercest national rival in the financial sector is Hong Kong, another city that’s open to foreign investment, uses English as its main language and offers businesses first-rate services. Although Singapore was growing strongly before the financial crisis, Hong Kong remains in the lead. The total value of Hong Kong’s stock market is around five times greater than Singapore’s. However, the primacy of Hong Kong’s stock market has been a blessing in disguise, with tumbling share prices shrinking the wealth of the city’s high-net-worth investors last year. The number of US dollar millionaires in Hong Kong slumped by 61 per cent last year to 37,000, whereas Singapore saw a drop of just 22 per cent to 61,000, according to Merrill Lynch and Capgemini. However, Koh Boon Hwee, chairman of DBS, believes that despite the competition, both cities are largely complementary. “Hong Kong might be in front in terms of assetsunder-management but Singapore leads in the Asian dollar foreign exchange market,” he notes. “In any case, Asia is very large and I don’t think there’ll be just one financial centre in Asia, there will be several.” Alvin Liew, an economist at Standard Chartered in Singapore, also believes there is plenty of room for both cities to grow. “There are still niche markets for Hong Kong in China and likewise for Singapore in Southeast Asia,” he says. “Going forward, Hong Kong might have a harder time competing with Shanghai than Singapore.” David Cohen, an economist at Action Economics in Singapore, adds that both cities have their own unique benefits: “In Singapore, they like to point out that the air is cleaner here but Hong Kong residents argue that theirs is a more exciting city.” — bb

The Singapore dollar might not yet have the same “safe haven” pull as its American namesake but the currency is still considered to be one of the most resilient in Asia, thanks to the stable economic and political outlook and the large current account surplus. As an additional confidence-generating measure, all the notes in circulation are fully backed by the government’s foreign exchange reserves. So it’s no wonder that many of the region’s tycoons opt to stockpile their personal riches in Singapore dollars. — bb

While the financial crisis will lead to stricter regulation and less risk-taking around the world, Singapore’s banking sector is in a strong position, according to Koh Boon Hwee, the chairman of the city-state’s largest bank, DBS. “While there are troubled global institutions that may withdraw from Asia, strong banks will renew their focus on the region as it is a growing part of the world.” Koh says that markets are beginning to open again and he expects more mergers and takeovers within Asia as ambitious executives take advantage of low stock market valuations. — bb

Finance Overview The government’s prudent fiscal approach helped it to amass vast financial reserves of hundreds of billions of dollars but it had to dip into the kitty for the first time ever this year to help fund the S$20.5bn (€10bn) economic resilience package. Singapore’s two massive sovereign wealth funds, Temasek and GIC, have also been hit by the global slowdown, with Temasek’s portfolio shrinking by 31 per cent to S$127bn (€62bn) between March and November last year as it paid the price for its investments in troubled western banks such as Merrill Lynch and Barclays. Since those dark days, Temasek’s chief executive Ho Ching has signalled that the fund will expand its investments in still-growing Asia, while reducing its exposure to developed economies. gic, which took stakes in ubs and Citigroup shortly before the credit crunch struck, has also suffered but it has indicated that it will remain a long-term investor in the western financial sector. With cash burning a hole in their pockets and stock market valuations looking cheap, Temasek and gic are likely to go on a cautious international acquisition drive over the next year or two, making them even more globally influential. — bb

Top five things Temasek owns 1 PSA International, one of the world’s largest cargo port operators 2 Singapore Power, the domestic energy supplier 3 Changi Airport Group 4 An 88 per cent stake in Wildlife Reserves, parent company of the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park 5 A 55 per cent stake in SingTel, a regional mobile phone giant

Footnote 01: Go for gold: As of the end of last year, Singapore had total foreign reserves of S$250bn, the majority of which were in gold and foreign exchange (S$249.5bn).

Singapore National Survey


Trade relations Singapore’s five biggest export markets and what they buy: 1 Malaysia (S$57.6bn/€28.3bn) – Electronic goods, petrochemicals, telecoms equipment 2 Hong Kong (S$49.5bn/€24.3bn) – Electronic goods, petrochemicals, telecoms equipment 3 Indonesia (S$50.3bn/€24.7bn) – Electronic goods, petrochemicals, telecoms equipment, civil engineering equipment 4 China (S$43.8bn/€21.5bn) – Electronic goods, petrochemicals, health and environmental services, logistics, infrastructure 5 US (S$33.4bn/€16.4bn) – Electronic goods, IT services, medical devices, trade within multinational companies. — bb

Economy Overview With a heavy reliance on exports, Singapore was the first Asian nation to slide into recession last year when global trade collapsed in the wake of the banking crisis. Its status as one of the world’s most nimble and open economies will ensure that the Lion City roars again when the global economy turns around. Following the sharp economic contraction during the second half of 2008 and early 2009, the decline has slowed and “the sentiment in Singapore has improved significantly”, according to Beh Swan Gin, managing director of Singapore’s Economic Development Board. “There is a general sense that things have bottomed out though – calling it a recovery may be an overstatement,” he says.This view is backed up by economists, who are forecasting a 6 per cent GdP contraction this year but expect the economy to bounce back robustly in 2010, growing by 4 per cent. Having established itself as a centre for the manufacture of semi-conductors and disk drives Singapore has diversified into other industries. “Our recovery will be predicated on our ability to adapt to the new environment and adjust our manufacturing base,” argues Koh Boon Hwee, chairman of DBS bank. “If you’re a big economy like the US, it’s like turning round a supertanker but if you’re small like Singapore, it’s easier to make a turn.” The government has moved to mitigate the effects of the slowdown with an unprecedented S$20.5bn (€10bn) resilience package. “The government’s reaction was much swifter than expected,” explains Alvin Liew, an economist at Standard Chartered. “It focused on minimising job losses and helping businesses stay afloat by providing credit and subsidising training opportunities during this period of exceptionally low demand.” This has helped Singapore to lay ground to further develop a knowledge-based economy. — bb

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Singapore National Survey

Currently, Singapore boasts few indigenous global brands. Here are five that we reckon could go global. 1 Totobobo is a respiratory mask for adults and kids, offering protection against airborne viruses and pollution. Business is booming because of the H1N1 flu pandemic and inventor Francis Chu believes the mask will continue to sell to cyclists, travellers and industrial workers. — bb 2 The Central Provident Fund: Singapore’s privately funded social security savings scheme works by employees contributing 20 per cent of their salary to the fund, topped up by 14.5 per cent from employers, and they earn between 2.5 and 5 per cent interest. It has 3.26 million members who are only allowed to spend wisely – mortgages and health insurance are sanctioned spends. A night at the Blackjack table isn’t. 3 OSIM iEcologi: In OSIM’s catalogue of massage chairs and foot reflexology machines is also the iEcologi. This vacuum cleaner traps dust in a water-filled compartment, which can then be emptied into the garden. Separate attachments transform the machine into a steam cleaner or an air purifier. 4 Stikfas: Part grown-up toy, part collector’s item, the Stikfas action figure has legions of fans. The doll comes in a huge range of wildly imaginative designs, each with a distinct personality and great retro names such as Darkland Bones Jones and Alpha Male Musketeer. 5 Singapore’s civil service is based on a meritocracy. The government handpicks the brightest students and offers them scholarships to blue-chip universities around the world in exchange for a period of service (usually at least five years) after graduation, with remuneration packages.— dw

Five key sectors 1 Healthcare: Some 400,000 overseas patients are treated in Singapore every year (Robert Mugabe is among the less appealing fans) and the government wants to attract one million international patients a year by 2012. A swanky 350-suite private hospital in Novena by is due to open in 2012. 2 Tourism: Still a stopover destination, more than 10 million tourists visited Singapore last year but arrivals slowed as the global recession took hold. The opening of two new integrated resorts in early 2010 should provide a much-needed boost. 3 Investment banking: While widespread redundancies have hit morale in the banking community, the mood has lightened, with markets rebounding and companies starting to raise money and make acquisitions. “We don’t see any signs of retreat from foreign banks such as Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley,” says DBS chairman Koh Boon Hwee. “But Asian banks will get more aggressive.” 4 Aviation: Because of its position, Singapore has become a major air transport hub. Changi Airport is one of the world’s busiest and budget flights with Tiger Airways and JetStar Asia opening up air travel to Asians who could not previously afford to fly. 5 Defence: Although Singapore has traditionally exported arms to developing nations such as Bangladesh, Brazil and India, it is increasingly selling its military equipment to more established markets – the UK recently bought 100 Warthog armoured vehicles for £150m (€170m) from ST Engineering. More international deals are on the cards as it develops innovative technologies for unmanned, computerised warfare. — bb

Barmy for Tiger Balm A cure-all ointment concocted by brothers Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par in the early 20th century, Tiger Balm is Singapore’s most ubiquitous export. Sold in almost 100 countries, the menthol and mint-based heat rub is used to treat aches and pains by everyone from English rugby players to Thai kick-boxers and flu-ridden Chinese grandmothers. — bb

Interview APEC You might think the last thing Asia needs is another regional forum but Michael Tay, executive director of this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Singapore, begs to differ. “APEC is unique because it’s composed of economies, not countries,” he explains. “We’re not looking at binding legal agreements but at ways to promote business in the region by encouraging lower trade tariffs, streamlined standards and better access to trade financing.” APEC will reach its climax in November when leaders of 21 economies will converge for two key summits. — bb

No need to repeat Oil rigs Thirty per cent of the world’s hearing aids are produced in Singapore, largely thanks to Siemens, the German engineering giant that’s a leader in developing hearing products. Globally, just one in four of the people who need a hearing aid actually own one and, with many of these potential customers located in Asia, the industry is likely to see robust growth. — bb

Footnote 02: Give them credit: Out of Singapore’s 114 banks, six are local with total assets of S$668.5bn.

The world’s third largest export refining centre, Singapore is also a leader in producing the kit that aspiring oil powers need. Spearheaded by local offshore marine technology companies Sembcorp and Keppel, Singapore has 70 per cent of the global market for oil refinery and rig equipment. — ll

Singapore FreePort Art collectors, dealers and auction houses will have the world’s largest, and Asia’s first, secure storage space come January 2010, when the S$90m (€44m) Singapore FreePort opens next to Changi Airport. London’s Christie’s has already bagged 40 per cent of the first 22,500 sq m space and will enjoy the benefits of a free-trade zone and tax-free rules. “We have developed the Fort Knox of this millennium for high-value collectibles,” says co-founder and president of the FreePort, Alain Vandenborre, a Belgian entrepreneur. Jointly owned by Swiss art mover and storage firm Natural Le Coultre. — LL

Logistics Overview

Jurong Island

Jurong Island facts:

Military air, sea and land patrols safeguard the seven reclaimed islets that make up Jurong Island in the country’s southwest from unwanted visitors. It comes as no surprise, considering that more than 95 local and international petroleum corporations – such as Shell and ExxonMobil, as well as petrochemical firms including Sumitomo Chemicals – generate 39 per cent of the country’s manufacturing output, billions in revenue (nearly S$260bn/€128bn in 2008) and daily refine 1.3 million barrels of oil here. Singapore is now the world’s third largest oil refining centre after the US Gulf Coast and Rotterdam. With an expert 8,000-strong workforce and seamless integration from receiving the world’s oil – the Very Large Crude Carrier Osprey was docked when MonocLe visited – to refining and petrochemical output, Jurong Island is an ideal site for petrochemicals firms looking for a new base. — LL

Rock Caverns Space is tight on Jurong Island – although the landmass will eventually cover 32 sq km when land reclamation is completed – so expansion is now underway under the sea. Developed by local JTC Corporation and built by Korean M/s Hyundai Engineering & Construction, caves with the capacity to store nearly 1.47 million cubic metres of crude oil and diesel will be ready by 2013. Oil refineries Jurong Island’s highway was recently moved to make way for Exxon Mobil’s new refining site. When completed in 2011, it will be the corporation’s largest. Shell, which built Singapore’s first refinery at Pulau Bukom, another island not far away from Jurong Island, where it’s the sole operator, is also expanding with a new plant for chemicals manufacturing. — LL

Geography and the Singaporean reputation for getting things done have combined to make this little island nation a major logistics centre. If you’re a shipping manager moving tomatoes from Australia to China or aircraft parts from Dubai to Papua New Guinea, you’ll hope that your products will go via Singapore. Why? They’re unlikely to be stolen or damaged and will arrive on time because of Singapore’s efficient port and airport. Just look at the numbers. Almost 116,000 planes took off from Changi Airport’s (see page 14) tarmac and over 131,000 ships docked at the port last year. As Kelvin Wong, director of logistics and urban solutions at the Singapore Economic Development Board, says, “Apart from its strong shipping connectivity, Singapore is also known for its reliability and efficiency. Shippers know that they can count on Singapore to get their goods on to the right ships on time or ahead of time.” However, in the world of cargo things are never straightforward and the sector has been plummeting over the past year. The country will face increasing competition from other ports and airports in the region, such as Shanghai and Hong Kong, as they eye its profitable business. Singapore isn’t going to take the threat to its logistics supremacy lying down though. It is currently adding new port terminals, building oil storage caves under the sea and extending free-trade zones close to the airport. “For Singapore to maintain its position as a premier logistics centre, we want to be the place in Asia that international and emerging companies can count on to deliver effective supply chain solutions to grow their market share in Asia,” Wong says. So, for now, the oil shipper in the Gulf or Swiss pharmaceuticals distributor are unlikely to move their businesses anywhere else. — LL

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Singapore National Survey

Port Almost 30 million containers passed through Singapore’s container port, the world’s largest, in 2008. The port is connected to 600 ports in 123 countries and serves 200 shipping lines. The terminal operator, PSA International, has operations in 28 ports and generated nearly S$4.4bn (€2.1bn) in revenue in 2008. That figure may very well rise: the Maritime and Port Authority is building new terminals at Pasir Panjang at a cost of S$2bn (€980m), which will add 16 more berths when they are completed in 2013. — LL

Footnote 03: Hub club: The World Bank ranks Singapore as the globe’s leading logistics hub out of the 150 countries it surveys.

Flight stats

Transport stats

The top 10 cities with Changi connections (as of 1 July 2009): 1 Kuala Lumpur: 490 weekly scheduled flights Number of airlines: 8 2 Jakarta: 360 weekly scheduled flights Number of airlines: 10 3 Bangkok: 260 weekly scheduled flights Number of airlines: 6 4 Hong Kong: 190 weekly scheduled flights Number of airlines: 4 5 Manila: 150 weekly scheduled flights Number of airlines: 4 6 Tokyo: 112 weekly scheduled flights Number of airlines: 5 7 London: 98 weekly scheduled flights Number of airlines: 3 8 Sydney: 98 weekly scheduled flights Number of airlines: 3 9 Shanghai Pudong: 98 weekly scheduled flights Number of airlines: 2 10 Perth: 94 weekly scheduled flights Number of airlines: 4

Transport Overview As any taxi-driver will tell you, it takes 10 minutes to go almost anywhere in Singapore thanks to the country’s small size and congestion charge system. Introduced in September 1998, the Electronic Road Pricing system was a world first for its congestion charge on all vehicles (including taxis but excluding public buses) entering the central city area during peak morning and evening periods. Payment of between S$1-S$2 (€1) is deducted electronically via pre-paid cash-cards as vehicles pass through gantries. The number of vehicles on the roads are curbed with an unusual Certificate of Entitlement (COE) scheme. Residents are required to bid and pay for a limited number of certificates in order to own a motor vehicle. This past July, the COE for a car above 1601cc was S$18,501 (€9,110). Singapore’s Land Transport Authority is currently investing S$1.17bn upgrading its central and coastal expressways as well as pumping billions of Singapore dollars into the country’s rail network (see page 33). Two more lines on the Mass Rapid Transit system, the Circle and Downtown lines, will open in the next decade to cater for the growing number of passengers. Singapore’s image is also helped by the quality of its national carrier, Singapore Airlines with its classic Singapore Girl uniforms and the quality of its food and beverage menus. The airline is set to add another 10 A380s to its fleet of nine, as well as another 51 Boeings and other Airbus models by 2017 to its existing fleet of 108 aircraft. And you can count yourself lucky to land at Changi Airport. It takes on average less than 30 minutes to exit the airport and swish along the rainforest-lined highway to the city centre. — ll

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Paved roads: 3,325km. Number of motor-vehicles: 894,682 (of which 540,455 are cars). Car age: only 23,813 cars are aged 10 years or more. Road casualties: 221 killed, and 10,760 injured. MRT: The MRT’s 93.2km train tracks carried over 619 million passengers in 2008. The busiest station is Raffles Place, which reports an average of 133,800 passengers per week. A monorail service links the mainland to Sentosa island. (Figures are from 2008)

Changi Airport In its first year of operation in 1981, Changi Airport handled eight million passengers. Last year, that number had gone up to nearly 38 million. The Changi Airport Group, wholly owned by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings, took over operations at the airport from Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority on 1 July this year. The move aims to make the airport more competitive and strengthen its brand name at home and abroad in the face of growing competition from regional airports such as Beijing Capital International Airport, Shanghai’s Pudong Airport and Dubai International Airport, and the growth of non-stop flights. As the airport’s new CEO, Lee Seow Hiang, says: “We are mindful of the competitive environment. In fact, we believe it’s healthy and keeps us on our toes. Despite the downturn, five new airlines have joined the Changi network in the first half of this year and we are expecting more to do so.” While national carrier Singapore Airlines accounts for over 50 per cent of the airport’s 4,600 weekly flights, which connect to 193 destinations in 60 countries, another 84 airlines vie for a piece of the cake here too (see flight stats). Looking ahead, Lee says “we see potential for traffic growth in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.” And at home, the focus

Singapore Airlines interview

Cruise industry

is on upgrading airport infrastructure. Changi’s Terminal 3 opened at the beginning of 2008 and expansion of Terminal 1 is currently underway. At a cost of S$500m (€240m), T1 will have an additional 18,000 sq m floor space, mostly dedicated to retail and food outlets, tropical waterfalls and floating orchid gardens covered by a timbered ceiling, when it opens in 2011. — ll

With the air and maritime shipping markets pretty much sewn up, Singapore has been concentrating on developing the leisure cruise market. Cunard, Silversea, Star Cruises and P&O lead the flotilla sailing into Singaporean waters. Last year, over a thousand holiday liners called at HarbourFront and by 2015 passenger throughput is expected to hit 1.6 million. A new International Cruise Terminal at Marina South is scheduled for 2011. The new terminal, says Chew Tiong Heng, director at the Singapore Tourism Board, “will enable us to realise our ambition to be a major cruise hub.” — dw

Chew Choon Seng pilots one of the great airline brands. It’s reputation is so powerful that the Singapore Airlines chief executive tells the story of a family friend from Kansas who flew out to spend time in Singapore for the first time. “Somewhat innocently, she thought Singapore was just an airline,” he chortles. “She didn’t realise Singapore was a country too.” It’s an example of how an airline can frame a nation. Chew’s anecdote demonstrates how elite his brand has become – known simply to the sophisticates who love it by its IATA-designated airline code – SQ. Witness that no frequent flyer on MAS to Kuala Lumpur or Lufthansa to Berlin says they flew “MH” or “lH” to get there. That’s a great place for Chew to be in the marketplace but prestige alone doesn’t keep planes profitable, as he now knows after two years of global recession. The preferred choice of now-vanquished moneymen, SQ just reported a loss of just over S$307m (€150m) for the first quarter. As smart as it is, Chew’s carrier has had its wings clipped – the slump forced salary cuts and retrenchments, and Chew

wants to unload his decadeheld 49 per cent stake in Branson’s Virgin Atlantic too. “The premium segment has been impacted more because the meltdown started with the financial sector and the banks, and financial institutions were nearly a quarter of our business,” Chew says. “These are very tough trading conditions. Our forward bookings are running at a level of 20 per cent down year-on-year.” So what about those elusive green shoots? Not visible yet, Chew says. The decline, he says, has bottomed out but the trend is equal across all operating sectors, from cargo to the First and Business Class end – it’s zero growth on the SQ horizon for some time. But he insists SQ’s airline industry standard-setting service levels have not been compromised. “Throughout this crisis we haven’t lost sight of the fact that our success is rooted in satisfying the customer. This is the challenge.” Some of their most frequent travellers disagree however saying service has been down-graded. Despite the slump SQ is still investing in brand building. “We are doing smarter buying but haven’t cut back drastically. Our market position is such that we are in the top tier premium segment of the

Footnote 04: All on board: Publicly listed Singaporean company Comfort DelGro is one of the largest bus and taxi operators in the world with a fleet of 44,000 vehicles.

global brands in hospitality.” Chew cites the October 2007 launch of Airbus’s A380 as emblematic of the airline’s ethos. The Singapore-Sydney flight was the first time the A380 had flown commercially, and it was a global marketing coup. It now stands as a high water mark for international aviation – a week later the US Federal Reserve would be forced to inject $41bn (€20bn) into the American money supply to support the fragile banks. “The A380 manifested our long-held policy of operating a young and modern fleet,” Chew says, “It’s also been a morale booster for our organisation – people like to be associated with it and that helps maintain our passenger appeal that new planes and products bring.” — EE

SQ facts Passengers: 18.3m Route network: 65 destinations in 35 countries Average age of aircraft: five years, 11 months Employees: Around 14,500, more than 7,000 of whom are flight attendants Founded: 1972 Owner: Publicly traded, biggest single shareholder is Temasek Holdings

Luxury resort


It’s going to take more than casinos alone to boost tourism to Singapore. At the moment the city is lacking a lush, luxurious urban escape in the heart of the city. There are no shortage of business travellers who’d tack on a few extra nights if they had their own private pool surrounded by an exotic garden moments from Orchard Road. It’s a project waiting to be snapped by the Park Hyatt brand or Dorchester Group. — TB

Having made its name as a clean and safe holiday destination, Singapore has struggled to throw off the perception that it is a dull and uninspiring place. So in 2005, the government legalised casino gaming in a bid to give Singapore “the X-factor – that buzz that you get in London, Paris or New York”, according to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Just four years later, Singapore’s first ever casino resorts – the Marina Bay Sands and ResortsWorld at Sentosa – are near completion, with soft openings expected early next year. The two integrated resorts will include hotels, restaurants, bars, theme parks and even museums as well as the gaming floors. “These resorts are expected to create 20,000 jobs,” says Lee Yi Shyan, minister of state for trade and industry. “Marina Bay Sands will introduce new retail brands and concepts to Singapore and celebrity chef restaurants to put Singapore on the gastronomic map,” adds Nigel Roberts, president of Marina Bay Sands. — BB

Tourism Overview Ten years ago seven million people came to stay in Singapore. In 2008 it was more than 10 million. The Singapore Tourism Board wants to see the numbers on the chart going much higher but until now they faced a small problem. Many people saw Singapore as a stopover destination and one where, to be honest, you might have ended up feeling ready to move on after a few days. While this may have been unfair, it seems that the Singaporeans have taken big steps over the past few years to add more life and excitement to the Singapore that visitors see. They’ve now got the world’s biggest ferris wheel and are building new beach resorts and casinos. “It’s not just the image of Singapore that has undergone a makeover, but Singapore itself has physically transformed over the last five years. We have embarked on a raft of exciting projects to make Singapore an even more exciting place to visit,” says Chang Chee Pey, Singapore Tourism Board’s brand management director. However, and this is why that reputation for being dull is slightly unfair, Singapore visitors shouldn’t just concentrate on the headline attractions. What makes a stay here worthwhile is when you go beyond the bombastic to visiting Little India, farmers in the country’s northwest or when you have a chicken rice lunch with the locals at a hawker centre in Chinatown. Singaporean society also makes this an attractive destination for travellers – you are likely to be able to travel around the country and go home still in possession of your camera and wallet. It’s a country that lets you have the Asian experience while feeling safe. Though there’s still room to encourage more small-scale non chain cafés, bars and hotels. — ll

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Top five Neighbourhoods 1 Little India (below): Chaotic and noisy, Little India’s energy never flags. The main Serangoon Road cuts through a hotchpotch of lanes that hide shops, markets and spice stalls. 2 Katong (right, top and middle): Katong’s colonial houses point to its heyday as a breezy coastal retreat for the well-heeled. For gourmets, East Coast and Joo Chiat Roads turn out Peranakan and Eurasian food. 3 Dempsey Hill: Set amidst tropical jungle, the former army barracks at Dempsey Hill has been converted into art galleries, gourmet shops, enotecas and fine dining restaurants. 4 Lim Chu Kang: Tucked away in the island’s north-west corner is a collective of farms specialising in everything from goats milk, aeroponically grown vegetables to ornamental koi. 5 Changi Village: Singapore’s most eastern tip is known for its Changi prisoner of war camp but these days, locals come here for coastal walks and postcard sunsets at Changi Point Kelong Walk. — dw

Top five Hotels

Top five Bars, restaurants, coffee shops “We wanted to open something non-commercial looking so we kept the concept simple,” explains Jane Hia who launched Kith Café with Ahmad Hidayat (both pictured) in April. Come here for homemade scones and a good ice coffee. For a cup of great espresso, try Black at the Hitachi Tower. Brunches are nowadays had at Spruce, opened in the Embassy Quarter in March. The local Chinese get their curry and pepper crabs at 3 in Tiong Bahru – no-frills but authentic. For homemade noodles, visit Tai Shek Hei House of Bamboo Noodles on the East Coast and for Japanese food, family-run Restaurant Chako on the West Coast is good. Cocktails are best at French rooftop bar and restaurant Orgo at the Esplanade as well as Klee Bar, housed in a renovated colonial bungalow on Portsdown Road. Locals eagerly await Tanjong Beach Club on Sentosa island, which will replace pop-up bar The Shack (see top) next year. — ll/dw

What we’d export

Hotel hub

Though Singapore is replete with world-class restaurants serving up everything from haute French to meaty South American churascuria, street food still forms the cornerstone of society. Cooked fresh to order, the cuisine is a spread of Malay, Indian, Chinese, Peranakan and Eurasian. The best is found in any of the 120-plus centres around the island in Tanjong Pagar, Maxwell Road and Tiong Bahru. More comfortable, but slightly more expensive versions can be enjoyed in mall food courts. We’d export Serangoon Gardens’ Chomp Chomp with over 80 stalls, each specialising in a single dish. — dw

For hotel management, Singapore is a pre-packaged dream.Year-round sunshine punctuated by epic downpours, an increasing number of high-profile tourist draws (F1 being the jewel in the crown) and an airport with a capacity to handle 70 million people all help explain why hotel groups Amanresorts, Starwood and Banyan Tree have chosen Singapore for their headquarters. While Orchard Road and Marina Bay are dominated by the Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton and Mandarin Oriental, the market for independent boutique hotels is heating up in the city’s Keong Saik Road and Tiong Bahru. — dw

(Pictured clockwise) 1 Best independent hotel: The business traveller who doesn’t want to stay at a chain hotel can head to Naumi. Located at Seah Street in the Central Business District, it has 40 rooms, 24-hour valets and a rooftop pool. 2 Best spa: Part of Chicago-based hotel group Global Hyatt Corporation, the Grand Hyatt in Singapore is a favourite among business travellers for its city-centre location, wi-fi, gym and spa. 3 Best dependable chain: Shangri-la’s Singapore property has 750 rooms, 55 luxury residencies and 127 serviced apartments and is a favourite among the diplomatic community. 4 Best boutique hotel: “I looked at Chinatown and decided to go with it on a whim really. And it took off from there,” says Loh Lik Peng who opened The New Majestic, which has 30 rooms designed by local emerging artists together with outdoor bathtubs. 5 Best escape: Located a short drive from the city centre, Capella Singapore is a calm retreat set in 30 acres of woodland. The main building was built in the 1880s and it has 111 rooms and 38 garden villas. — ll

Footnote 05: You’re welcome: Indonesia, India, Australia, Malaysia and China are Singapore’s top five tourism-visitor markets.

Five Singapore tech initiatives

Biopolis Biopolis science park aims to foster a vibrant spirit of creativity, with its tree-lined square, science-inspired artwork and buzzing cafés. More than 2,000 scientists and technicians from around the world have been drawn to the S$500m (€240m) biological research facility to work for pharmaceutical giants, biotechnology companies and research institutes. — bb

Technology Overview With a highly educated population and very little free land for industrial development, the technology industry has long been at the heart of Singapore’s economic growth strategy. There are now 130,000 people working in Singapore’s IT industry, of whom more than 80 per cent have a tertiary education. The government has also ensured that tech companies are provided with an ideal environment to develop new products, thanks to an ever-evolving IT infrastructure and a robust intellectual property regime. Singapore is home to 80 of the world’s top 100 software and IT services companies, many of which have located their Asia-Pacific headquarters in the city. In 2007, Singapore’s IT industry generated revenues of S$51.7bn (€25.2bn), of which 55 per cent came from hardware production, 17 per cent from software and 12 per cent from IT services. But, although Singapore was already making one third of the world’s hard-disk drives by the early 2000s, the government’s Infocomm Development Authority has been eager to ensure that Singaporean companies continue to innovate and develop cutting-edge, higher-value products. The construction of state-of-the-art research and development complexes such as Fusionopolis, Biopolis (pictured above) and Mediapolis is helping to accelerate this process by offering a cost-effective and hassle-free environment that is designed to stimulate creativity and innovation. “With our secure and reliable infrastructure, Singapore is well positioned as a centre for new technologies,” says Patrick Chan from IDC, a global IT market research group. “Singapore is an emerging global centre for clean tech, such as fuel cells, water treatment and the next generation of solar energy,” he adds. “Singapore will also be huge in the online and mobile gaming space.” — bb

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1 Creative Technology: Started by current chief executive Sim Wong Hoo as a computer repair shop in 1981, Creative has become Singapore’s most successful tech company, selling more than S$1bn worth (€488m) of products last year, from MP3 players to the new Vado pocket HD video camera. 2 Hyflux: The biggest name in Singapore’s flourishing water industry, Hyflux is a world leader in desalination and waste-water treatment. Focused on the rapidly growing markets of Asia and the Middle East, the company is building the world’s biggest desalination plant in Algeria. 3 ST Engineering: Set up in the 1960s to reduce the Singapore Army’s reliance on imported small arms and ammunition, ST Engineering is now spearheading the move toward advanced warfare, developing unmanned airborne drones and the futuristic Spider armoured car, which can be remotely controlled. 4 iNo phone: Given how obsessed with gadgets most Singaporeans are, it’s a surprise to learn that the hottest new mobile phone in town is decidedly low tech. Foresight Technologies’ easy-to-use S$88 (€43) iNo, pitched at older people, incorporates buttons that are three times average mobile size. 5 Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies: Many scientists believe that fuel cells, which use hydrogen to produce clean electric energy, will be vital in the battle against climate change. Horizon is at the forefront of the move to develop low-cost fuel cells that are small enough to be of practical use, making lightweight cells for use in unmanned aircraft and for the first practical hydrogenpowered car. — bb

Footnote 06: Surfs up: Since 2006, people can surf for free at 7,500 hotspots using [email protected] Things will get even better in 2012 when the new high-speed (1GB per second) all-fibre network is installed.

Marina Barrage With no sizeable rivers and a land area too small to collect enough rain water, Singapore has been forced to find radical solutions. A 7,000km network of drains and 15 reservoirs prevent flooding while also collecting water. The latest is the Marina Reservoir created by the Marina Barrage (pictured). By 2011, two-thirds of Singapore’s surface area will be used for water catchment. PUb, the national water agency, turns used water into clean water using a triple treatment process which is mostly used by industries requiring high-purity water. — bb

Solar energy

Wind power

With an average of 2,034 hours of sunshine a year, Singapore is an ideal candidate to become the region’s leader in solar energy. The business itself is a lucrative one. Norwegian company Renewable Energy Corporation is investing an astonishing S$3bn (€1.46bn) in a manufacturing plant in Tuas to produce solar energy components for the international market. Annual turnover is also expected to be around S$3bn. The plant will support Singapore’s programme of renewable energy while emphasising R&D. — DW

When it comes to clean energy, wind power reigns supreme. In 2007, VestasWind Systems – a Danish company that supplies wind power solutions – set up a regional R&D facility in Singapore. The S$500m (€240m) investment is part of the company’s ambitious 10-year plan to research and boost the commercial benefits of wind power. — DW

Electric cars With such a compact and densely populated urban landscape, it’s understandable why traffic pollution is an ongoing worry. A multi-agency taskforce headed by the Energy Market Authority and the Land Transport Authority is hard at work test-bedding electric vehicles and developing charging stations. As part of the S$20m (€10m) project, Renault-Nissan has signed up to supply EVs to the local market. The first batch of energy-efficient cars is due to hit the roads in 2010.Yam Ah Mee, the LTA’s chief executive adds that “electric vehicles are a new urban transport solution that offers great potential for the development of industry, business, standards and R&D.” — DW

Alternative energy Overview For a tiny country with no natural resources of scale to speak of, alternative energy sources have long been the holy grail of Singapore’s growth strategy. Mah Bow Tan, minister for National Development, says, “Sustainable development must remain a national priority, in good times and bad, given our resource constraints, the demands of our growing city and the global challenge of climate change.” The problem is two-pronged: the sustainable supply and use of energy. Both are keystones to the government’s efforts at boosting sustainable development. The Economic Development Board heads the Clean Energy Programme Office to implement, coordinate research and test-bed programmes in clean energy; while funds are being pumped into programmes that promote solar and wind energy as well as carbon-friendly technologies and designs. The results of these green policies have been encouraging. According to Philip Ong, director of Strategic Policy for the Ministry of the Environment & Water Resources, Singapore’s energy intensity improved by 15 per cent between 1990 and 2005. Future targets are ambitious: it’s hoped energy consumption per dollar GDP will decrease by 20 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020, and 35 per cent by 2030. To achieve this a pragmatic, multi-pronged approach is used. For example, suppliers and retailers are encouraged to promote sales of energy-efficient appliances while air-conditioners, refrigerators and cars display energy labels and fuel consumption information. A Design for Efficiency Scheme provides companies with funding and incentives to design energy efficient industrial facilities, buy energy efficient equipment, and to conduct energy audits to identify areas where energy use could be improved. — DW

Footnote 07: Energy rush: Singapore’s alternative energy sector is expected to contribute S$1.7bn to the country’s GDP and create 7,000 jobs by 2015.

National gallery On the steps of Singapore’s City Hall the Japanese surrendered to the British in 1945 and, 20 years later, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, declared Singapore’s independence. In 2013, the building will make history again when it reopens as the city-state’s first National Art Gallery, also occupying the adjacent old Supreme Court. The gallery is designed to be a hub for Southeast Asian art and it will include a children’s gallery and rooftop plaza. It’ll be about the same size as Paris’s Musée d’Orsay and it’s hoped it will make Singapore a premier cultural destination. Kwok Kian Chow (pictured right) is the new director. — ke

Arts Overview On the fringe of one of the world’s busiest container ports is a second-floor nondescript factory reached only by a clunky freight lift. Inside people are gathered in a hangar-like white space to see the latest works from New York-based artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel. It’s an indication of how far Singapore has come in the past decade. “I used to come here in the 1990s and I’d get out as fast as I could. There was nothing going on,” says Howard Rutkowski, a partner in Fortune Cookie, which put on the show. “Now there’s a lot more happening here. It’s becoming more of an international city.” Part of that is due to the government, which is pumping millions of dollars into the arts to revitalise the city’s international image. It’s investing heavily in education, from primary schools to degree level, and museums are being expanded. “There is a growing recognition that arts and culture play an important role in promoting a sense of identity and belonging among Singaporeans,” says Kwok Kian Chow, director of the new National Art Gallery. “People are increasingly looking for a higher quality of life, and many aspire to live and work in a city that has a rich array of arts and cultural offerings.”Auction houses have set up shop on the island and as the art market at home has expanded, Singapore’s artists have become better known internationally. The country started participating in the Venice Biennale in 2001 and this year video installation artist MingWong won a Special Mention. Such recognition has, in turn, helped fuel interest at home. A visit to an art gallery or museum, rather than the mall, is proving popular. “It’s a joy to see families coming on the weekends and bringing the kids,” says Dionne Ng, manager of ValentineWillie Fine Art. “It shows that art is no longer this strange thing to be kept at arm’s length.” — ke

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Top five Galleries

Top five Artists

1 Art Forum: Born in Shanghai and now living in Singapore, Marjorie Chu is the founder of Art Forum. She likes to champion young talent. 2 Valentine Willie Fine Art: Valentine Willie opened his Singapore space in April 2008 and staged 11 shows in nine months. He went into the gallery business after retiring from law and now curates exhibitions across the region. 3 Fortune Cookie Projects: Conceived as a bridge between East and West, Fortune Cookie aims to bring major international artists to Asia and introduce Asia’s artists to the West. 4 Taksu: Taksu’s Suherwan Abu opened his Singapore gallery in suburban Holland Village in 2005. The gallery represents both international and regional artists and runs a residency programme at its sister gallery in Kuala Lumpur. 5 Tyler Print Institute: Part gallery, part museum, the Institute (below) opened in 2002 to build on the legacy of American printmaker Ken Tyler. A vibrant residency programme (including New Delhi’s Thukral and Tagra) and varied exhibitions have put it at the forefront of the Singapore art scene. — ke

1 Milenko Prvacki: Prvacki came to Singapore from Yugoslavia in 1992 with a small suitcase and two years later he exhibited at Lasalle, Singapore’s top art school. Now he’s Lasalle’s dean of fine arts. Prvacki’s work (below) can be found in private collections worldwide. 2 Ian Woo: Woo was born in Singapore in 1967 and studied art in Singapore, the UK and Australia. He’s something of a rarity in Singapore having stuck with painting when most artists of his generation prefer multimedia. 3 Heman Chong: Born in Malaysia, Chong moved to Singapore as a child and studied in London. A curator and artist, Chong now divides his time between Singapore and Berlin. He has exhibited in Asia, Europe and the US. 4 Ming Wong: This Singaporean video artist won a Special Mention at this year’s Venice Biennale – the first for any Singaporean artist. His work focuses on history, memory and identity and he lives and works in both Berlin and Singapore. 5 Henri Chen Kezhan: Kezhan’s abstract ink and wash paintings have helped invigorate traditional Chinese brush painting. Inspired by nature and music, Kezhan has established an international reputation for his work. — ke


Record shop

Judging from the success of Karen Wai and Kenny Leck’s Books Actually shop launched nearly four years ago, their new outlet Polymath & Crust, open since June, will command an equally loyal customer following. Both outlets are decidedly non-commercial; obscure, local and classic fiction titles at Books Actually, non-fiction, including philosophy and natural history, at Polymath & Crust. The couple (pictured below) are tapping into a new reading and publishing culture emerging in Singapore. Leck says “closet readers and writers” are coming out in force now that publishing is getting easier and a new generation of readers are demanding more locally crafted writing. “I think there is a hunger among kids between 15 and 18 who are asking for more Singapore-written works because those will resonate more with them,” Leck explains. Both believe they have a responsibility to support the writing and arts community in Singapore and try to do so by giving space at the shops to art exhibitions and book readings as well as bringing out local titles through their small publishing business Math Paper Press. “Other publishers do publish poetry and essays but I think there is more out there that deserves a voice. We hope to provide a platform for them,” Wai says. — ll

The speciality at Straits Records is straight-edged culture (or sXe in specialist parlance), a very niche subgenre of aggressive hardcore and punk music. An audiophile’s Aladdin’s cave, the store stocks obscure titles in various formats from around the world, T-shirts and books. Founder Ridhwan Ghany (pictured right), a 34-year-old vegan, stages ad-h0c shows of indie acts, film screenings and art shows on rooftops, in car park basements, and even by road-sides. — dw Straits Records, 766 North Bridge Road, Singapore,

Media Overview The words Singapore and media have not always sat comfortably in print. High profile run-ins with major international news brands have been PR challenges for brand Singapore but slowly the country is wisening up in most areas. The media landscape is dominated by media corporations such as state-controlled MediaCorp and private firms, including local Singapore Press Holdings and Australia’s magazine publisher ACP, but the city-state’s media players believe grassroots change is taking place. Daniel Yun, who launched film production studio Raintree Pictures as part of Media Corp’s portfolio in 1998, says Singapore’s film industry is now finding its feet: “We’re not in the driving seat yet but we’re at least in the car.You must dare to dream of the ultimate – the Palme D’Or or an Oscar. The only thing that doesn’t make it daydreaming is that you keep working at it”, he says. The Singapore government is all for big dreams. The media sector will receive an S$230m cash injection over the next five years through the government-supported Singapore Media Fusion plan in addition to the S$500m already earmarked for the development of the interactive media sector. Top game developers such as Japanese Koei and Italy’s Rainbow have already set up shop and 15 international broadcasters, including Discovery and HBO Asia, all have regional HQs here. “It’s a fantastic place to have a base and reach out to international markets,” says Ken Lim, founder of independent music label Hype Records and the man entrusted with composing Singapore’s new national anthem in 2005. “Right now we’re going through a discovery process. We’re trying to find out about different cultures and the skills that we have. It’s a unique time to do that,” he adds. — ll Footnote 08: Clear vision: Singapore was the first Southeast Asian country to launch commercial high-definition television in 2007.



For a small but dedicated band of book lovers there’s only one must-see destination in Singapore – a haven for the intellectually curious in one of Orchard Road’s quieter shopping malls. Set up by architect William Lim and three friends in 1976, Select Books focuses its retail and publishing business on Asia, whether that’s a classic novel, an exploration of the Asian home or a magical story for children. The business was bought out by husband and wife Seow Hwye Min and Lee Wen Fen five years ago. There are plans for expansion but they haven’t tinkered much with the formula that’s created such a loyal following. “We have stuck to what we believe in. We are very specialised. Very niche,” says Hwye Min. “In five years’ time we still want that reputation.” — ke 19 Tanglin Road Tanglin Shopping Centre

Sam Thambi and his family (including his wife pictured here) run Singapore’s best-stocked newsagent, Thambi Magazine Store. Thambi proudly carries on his grandfather’s newspaper-selling tradition launched in the 1940s; driving to Malaysia on his motorcycle to hunt down the best international magazines and newspapers – he used to sell them right off his bike to the British soldiers stationed at Singapore’s Holland Village. Still in the village but under a proper roof since the 1970s, Thambi Magazine Store is no less popular today, catering to the expatriate community and locals alike. — ll

Titles by Select Books: “The Tropical Asian House” by Robert Powell “Asian Architects” by Tan Kok Meng “The Girl from the Coast” by Pramoedya Ananta Toer “Architecture, Art, Identity in Singapore: Is There Life After Tabula Rasa” byWilliam Lim “Dignity Overdue” by John Gee

Channel NewsAsia Alongside the BBC and CNN TV listings there’s Channel NewsAsia, a young pan-Asian channel owned by MediaCorp broadcasting from HQ in Singapore. Asia comes first on the news agenda, catering to a growing number of viewers. “If you want news on anything about Asia, there’s only one destination and that’s Channel NewsAsia,” says Woon Tai Ho, its founder.While the BBC and Bloomberg might take issue with this statement, Channel NewsAsia does have an opportunity to carve out a unique niche both regionally and globally. — ll Channel NewsAsia facts Bureaux: 11 Journalists: 150 Reach: 24 million viewers in over 20 countries Correspondents: London, Moscow, Los Angeles, New York and Washington

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Top 10 Actors, directors, producers

Books 1 Singapore’s first gay novel by Johann S Lee was followed by his 2007 and 2008 bestsellers. 2 Singapore’s answer to Haruki Murakami, Simon Tay explores the difficulties of returning home after time spent abroad. 3 Singapore’s first confessional poet, Cyril Wong pulls no punches in his 2007 book. 4 Toh Hsien Min creates a new national narrative in this collection of poems. 5 Read Simply This – Simply His for letters and poems by civil servant Sng Boh Khim.

CDs 6 MyWrites’ 2009 debut album is a catchy mix of bossa lounge and guitar-driven riffs. 7 In July The Observatory released a jazzy folk-rock and electric melody compilation. 8 The Zozi, a quartet of young Singaporean Malays, mixes humour and indie rock. 9 The Analog Girl’s electro punk xylophone beats are perfectly Portishead-esque. 10Electrico’s fun but serious rock tunes are part of the local music scene. — dw/ll

1 Originasian Pictures, Sinema Academy of Motion Pictures and Sinema: As director and executive producer of Originasian Pictures, Nicholas Chee (pictured top left) directed the cult hit Becoming Royston in 2006. He is now working on Basket Ballet about two school gangs overcoming their differences by forming a basketball team and taking ballet classes. Chee also runs Singapore’s first independent HD-cinema-cum-filmmaking studio Sinema and the Sinema Academy of Motion Pictures – a not-for-profit outfit that supports the local film industry. 2 Raintree Pictures: I Not Stupid (2002), about Singapore’s education system, boosted the film industry abroad. “Before I Not Stupid, a foreigner would have no reference for Singapore film,” says Daniel Yun, managing director and founder of Raintree Pictures. The rights for Raintree horror flick The Eye were bought by Hollywood last year. 3 Yeo Yann Yann: Originally from Malaysia, 32-year-old actress YeoYann Yann (pictured below left) is considered an alternative voice in Singapore’s acting world. Singapore Dreaming, was the film that first brought her to the public eye in 2006. She’s currently setting up a new theatre company. 4 Pamelyn Chee: From her debut as a little duck in a Chinese dance troupe at nine years old to her lead in Wayne Wang’s Princess of Nebraska (2007) where she plays an alcoholic living rough, Pamelyn Chee has charted a course to stardom. She recently returned from eight years in the US and is now in pre-production for Basket Ballet (see above). — ll

5 James Leong and Lynn Lee: From Timor-Leste to Nepal and Bangladesh, James Leong and Lynn Lee (pictured left, middle) brought a sympathetic eye to the harsh realities of 21stcentury life. They won a Sundance grant for their first film, Passable, and their work has been shown on the film festival circuit. 6 Tan Pin Pin: In 2006’s Singapore Gaga, Tan brings the island to life through the eyes of its people. The film gets to the heart of what it means to be Singaporean. “There’s a hunger for a representation of the Singapore they see and they know, for something real,” says Tan. 7 Martyn See: “My purpose is to get people interested in political issues and to relax the climate of fear,” says See who made a film on Said Zahari, a long-serving Singaporean ex-political prisoner, which was banned. See is now looking into the 1987 detention of 40 social workers accused of being Marxists. 8 Royston Tan: Independent filmmaker Royston Tan’s first full-length feature, 15: The Movie, is a fly-on-thewall account exposing teenage gangs in Singapore. It won widespread acclaim, even as the authorities tried to censor it. 9 Kelvin Tong: A film journalist for the local Straits Times newspaper, Tong moved behind the camera in 1999. He made The Maid in 2005, a horror film that broke all box office records for the genre in Singapore. Having set up his own production company Boku, Tong is making his first Hong Kong film, a grim horror thriller, Rule #1. 10Eric Khoo: Khoo explores the complexities of urban life in his films. 12 Storeys, set in Singaporean housing blocks, was the first Singapore film to be invited to Cannes, and his most recent film, My Magic, has been selected for the official competition. — ke

Footnote 09: Culture club: Singapore has 24 leading libraries, 45 national and private museums, 27 performing venues and 35 art galleries.

Creative agency


National icon

Sweet-toothed Singaporeans now have a second Chocolate Research Facility outlet where they can satisfy their cravings. Opened in June at Wheelock Place, 501 Orchard Road, it offers 100 different chocolate flavours, including Sichuan Pepper and Lychee Martini. Chris Lee, who heads creative agency Asylum, came up with the concept and developed the flavours at a local factory. Lee’s new projects include a 2,787 sq m Orchard Road shopping mall due to open in November and interior design for Loh Lik Peng’s new boutique hotel in Little India (see page 17). “All these new restaurants and brands are from clients that are quite young, which gives us the opportunity to do interesting things and help develop a new cultural scene that got stuck somewhere,” he says. Lee also launched The Design Society with six other agencies in June to promote the local visual scene. — ll

Except for the BBC World Service, MediaCorp’s radio stations dominate Singapore’s radio waves. With a rising number of media graduates from Singapore’s universities and upcoming music talent that can be heard everywhere from Velvet to Home nightclubs, there’s an opportunity here to spice up the local radio-output. Unfortunately online radio streaming has become difficult since harsher copyright laws and higher licensing fees were introduced in March. Perhaps it’s time to open up the radio-sphere to the new generation of DJs ready to start broadcasting home-grown tunes to local and regional markets. — ll

Kumarason Chinnadural, aka Kumar, who launched his stand-up comedy drag queen career in Singapore in the 1990s, has endeared himself to Singaporeans with his rowdy, no-holds barred jokes that lampoon the intellectual, social and sexual inadequacies of Malays, Indians, Caucasians and Chinese alike. You made your name at the Boom Boom Room in Bugis Street in the 1990s. Where’s your curtain call these days? I did a cooking programme in Turkey and Egypt during the summer and I have been performing regular stand-up comedy shows at 3 Monkeys Café [on Orchard Road]. You have been Singapore’s premier drag queen for two decades, outlasting all the other pretenders. What’s your secret? Being the only drag queen comedian in Asia! It’s about a lot of hard work, a little charisma and lots of awareness of your surroundings. — dw

Video games



01 The Chocolate Research Facility, designed by creative agency Asylum 02 The window display 03 Café at the chocolate shop 04 Chocolate stored in drawers 05 Over 100 flavours of chocolate stacked up in the shop

The local appetite for video games was worth S$87m (€43m) in 2005 and is set to grow to S$287m by 2015. Koei, Ubisoft, EA and LucasArts have all set up shop in Singapore to benefit from the well-regulated intellectual property protection regime and educated workforce. The Media Development Authority has been a key facilitator of the gaming industry, supporting studios such as Tyler Projects and Mikoishi in developing multi-player online games. [email protected], a 190,000 sq m media park, will be critical in drawing businesses and talent. — dw

Graphic talent “I think the design industry in Singapore is still in its infancy but do come if you want to be part of a grand masterplan that is slowly unfolding,” says Justin Long who launched graphic design firm Hjgher with art director Jerry Goh in 2006. Long has high hopes for his contemporaries: “I think it will be interesting to see if the young designers, who are daring enough to be great, have it in them to go the distance and constantly reinvent themselves to not just be greater than those in Singapore but greater than everyone else in the world,” he says. New additions to the Hjgher portfolio, which already includes work for clients as varied as Subaru, United Overseas Bank and Kith Café (see page 17), are a second Kith Café and the soon-to-be-launched magazine The Issue. — ll 03

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Footnote 10: Chinese to go: The Singapore Media Development Authority is working with China Education Television to produce 10 HD documentaries that will reach every household in China by the end of next year.

Custom made 1 Cheongsam maker Elisa Chew has been making the traditional Chinese cheongsam dress for more than three decades and, while her clientele reads like a who's who of Singapore, her shop on Singapore’s East Coast attracts women of all backgrounds. It’s possible to buy a cheongsam off the rack and have it adjusted, but custom-made is the best way to go. Choose from Thai or Chinese silks, velvet or even batik. Chew’s team of seamstresses work their magic with exquisite craftsmanship, whether it’s a unique silk button or a three-tiered mandarin collar. For a uniquely Singaporean touch, orchids can be hand-painted on to the dress. No need to worry that cheongsams only work on the super-skinny and super-tall either. It’s all in the cut. “Everyone can wear a cheongsam,” says Chew. “They make women feel elegant and slim. I wear them a lot myself. I know.” — ke H&W International 5000F Marine Parade Road 01-26 Laguna Park

Custom made 2 Tailor Rossi offers a contemporary take on the traditional tailor and a pedigree that comes from three generations in the business. The focus is on the silhouette, the fit and the best Italian fabrics. A basic suit will take about three weeks and needs two or three fittings. “It’s old-school craftsmanship married with something more fashion forward,” says Daniel Lum, who set up the business with his cousin Timothy Tham, as an offshoot of their grandfather’s more traditional tailoring business. — ke 9 Raffles Boulevard, 01-36 MillenniaWalk

Q&A Kim Faulkner, CEO, Get Singapore Brands Get Singapore Brands is a non-profit collaboration between the retail sector and government to promote local firms. What is Get Singapore’s aim? To get people who come to visit here to think beyond “let’s look for something ethnic”.You can buy more than just a souvenir. How will you reach this goal? One of the areas that I’ve worked on is this idea of provenance. One of the things you notice with mergers, is that the provenance stays.

Have brands changed the way they look at provenance? The shift is in the sense of confidence in who you are without apologising for it. Singapore is a lot more confident today. — ll

Fashion/ Retail Overview Orchard Road is the retail commercial centre of Singapore, a 2km-long, 400,000 sq m hub for a nation that loves to shop. Even in these recessionary times, the pavements and malls are crowded as shoppers home in on the must-have brands. From Dries Van Noten to Gucci, Marni and Louis Vuitton, it’s all there.“If you look at Orchard Road, we have all the global brands,” says Tjin Lee who helped organise Singapore’s fashion week this year. “We have world-class shopping. The area we need to look at is how we nurture and groom our own young designers.” Faced with a small home market, a lack of funding and the distance from the world’s fashion capitals, being a fashion designer in Singapore is no easy task. But as Singapore is changing, so is retail, and so is fashion. “Before, it was always ‘Made in France’, ‘Made in Italy’, anything local they wouldn’t touch,” says Tina Tan-Leo, who introduced a generation of Singaporeans to Italian designers. “But now people are more educated and well travelled and they’re proud to be Asian.” Singaporeans are seeking out independent boutiques in suburban areas and colonial-era buildings. “Consumers want something unique and different,” says Tricia Lum, who runs the shop Antipodean in Singapore’s Holland Village. In Chinatown, stores selling furniture, books and fashion are replacing the Chinese clans who used to occupy the colonial era shophouses, and are opening new markets to local designers. Tan-Leo is seeking to capitalise on the change. In 2005, after 30 years of bringing in other people’s brands, she launched her own – alldressedup. It’s now one of Singapore’s most successful fashion exports, selling in nearly 60 boutiques across Asia, Europe and the US. Naturally, she also has a flagship store on Orchard Road. — ke

Footnote 11: Best foot forward: According to the latest survey (2007) on Singapore’s retail sector, there are 3,400 footwear and clothing retail outlets in the country.

Top five fashion designers

Retailer 2 Air Division

1 Wykidd Song: Song was one half of Song + Kelly, the first Singapore label to go global in 1995 when Harrods started stocking their clothes. Barneys and Selfridges followed. They showed in Australia and London, and in 2000 joined the Club21 stable of Singapore fashion maven, Christina Ong. Since leaving Club21 three years ago, Song has carved out a niche as a designer of clothes, jewellery, and even interiors. He’s planning to launch his first full fashion collection post Song + Kelly later this year. 2 Jonathan Seow: Seow started Woods Woods in 2000 and four years later was showing in Australia and Paris. He recently established Studio Privé, an initiative to help young designers hone their skills. 3 Jo Soh: London-trained Jo Soh named her label after her dog – a Jack Russell she rescued from the streets. Hansel, which she describes as “quirky with an element of fun”, made its debut in Australian Fashion Week in 2003 and has built a loyal following among women in the Asia Pacific. 4 Teo Ying Hui: The woman behind the label Demisemiquaver walked away with the s$20,000 Audi Young Designer Award at this year’s Singapore fashion week. More importantly for Teo, the prize included an internship with Vivienne Westwood. 5 Tina Tan-Leo and Sven Tan: After three decades in luxury retail, Tina Tan-Leo was determined to come up with her own line. She looked to Sven Tan, winner of the 2004 Mercedes Benz Asia Fashion Award, as her principal designer. Tan-Leo describes the clothes they create as modern with an Asian silhouette. — ke

Furniture design firm Air Division also runs what’s arguably Singapore’s best furniture shop (also called Air Division). Any ideas you may have had about Singaporean design as being ornamental bling will be blown away by this 55 sq m shop housed at the foot of Mount Sophia in the country’s south. From the bestseller Array Wide Shelf developed with London-based VoonWong & Benson Saw to Singaporean NathanYoung’s Tree Table (pictured) and Air Division designer Jerry Low’s Beam Table, the firm’s ranges focus on clean lines, polished wood and sleek curves. Managing director Michael

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Retailer 1 Strangelets

Retailer 3 Know It Nothing

Strangelets is the go-to shop for home decoration. Here you can get your classic Anglepoise lamp and pieces by under-the-radar designers. “Part of the reason we started Strangelets was so that we could introduce the work of little-known designers. We saw them as a necessary complement to the total domination of high-end luxury furnishings in the market,” says Ong Ker-Shing who launched the shop with her husband Joshua Comaroff (pictured centre and left) and two friends in May 2008 (Schirin Taraz-Breinholt is pictured on the right). The collection is going down a treat with local shoppers. “We have the design crowd with their big glasses and skinny pants, the ‘tai tais’ [wealthy housewives] and a range of arts and crafts people – granola-eaters who are still holding on to the notion of craft from the last go-around,” says Ong. With banking and architecture backgrounds – Ong and Comaroff run Lekker architecture practice (see page 33) at the back of the shop – they have the makings of a strong business model. — ll

Haji Lane, nestled among the traditional textile and perfume shop-houses in Singapore’s Arab Quarter, is being gentrified by young shopkeepers such as Suraj Melwani (right). Originally from Jakarta, Melwani studied finance in Boston and fashion design at Parson’s in New York before opening his shop, Know It Nothing, in Singapore in May 2007. The shop’s stock – accessible designs by unconventional international labels such as Denmark’s WoodWood and Sweden’s Nakkna – attracts locals and also customers from the region on the lookout for pieces harder to find among

the mass-market offerings on Orchard Road. Upstairs from the intimate shop floor, Melwani designs blazers, trousers and shirts for his Sifr line on a ping-pong table. Sifr is for “the guys in the middle who deserve good design too”, Melwani says. “We’re trying to combine all the things that people think are important; quality, wearability, price and comfort with a lasting appeal,” he adds. — ll

Footnote 12: The only way is up: Although retail sales have declined 10.3 per cent in Singapore compared to 2008, they increased by 0.9 per cent from April to May this year.

Toh (pictured in the middle with fellow directorsVincent Chia to his left and KayYong, right) knew he was on to something when he founded Air Division with four friends 10 years ago because “there were no companies providing good design”. A growing number of locals can’t seem to get enough of Air Division’s Scandinavian-inspired design pieces. “People are more exposed to design and have become more discerning in their pursuit of better lifestyles,” says Toh. — ll

Retailer 4 The Blackmarket The Blackmarket is in Jalang Pisang, an area northeast of the Singapore River that was haunted by Indonesian pirates back in the 16th century and was formerly where the country’s drug dens were to be found. Launched a year ago by the three founders of the design studio The Blackmark, and now run with two additional partners (four of the team are pictured below left), the shop attracts a more sober crowd of young Singaporean professionals to the neighbourhood today. It’s one of the leading retail outlets that pay homage to the “Made in Singapore” label, with designers such as Fru Fru & Tiger Lily and Hooked Clothings on the racks. “We’re inspired by upcoming Asian designers that are on a par with international labels but that have limited exposure to market themselves. People are much more receptive towards local labels now. In fact, our customers buy more local and regional labels than international ones. It’s overwhelming to have made such a breakthrough,” says founding partner Quincy Teofisto. — ll

Q&A Urban thinker Teng Wee, Lo & Behold Group Teng Wee co-founded Lo & Behold Group in 2005. His first offering was Loof, a rooftop bar in the central Odeon Towers. Two more venues have opened since – the White Rabbit restaurant in Dempsey and OverEasy nightclub in the Central Business District. His latest project is Tanjong Beach Club at Sentosa Island. Why did you choose to go into the restaurant business? It was never a conscious effort to go into the bar and restaurant business. I’ve always had a love of interesting spaces and the

challenges that stem from crafting concepts that bring these spaces to life. Food and beverage projects are a natural extension of this passion but I think these ideals apply equally well to many different spheres. What’s your design ethos? We’ve always taken the time to hunt out special locations, from a rooftop overlooking the city to an abandoned colonial chapel building. From there, we set about creating concepts with a distinct personality [and bring that out] in the details, creating an experience that we hope lingers on for our guests after they’ve left. — ll

Architecture/ Urbanism Overview Make no mistake, there are genuine architectural gems to be found in Singapore. The island has gracefully low-slung colonial shop-houses, black and white bungalows, a couple of Paul Rudolph classics and intriguing monoliths by IM Pei. That said, there’s always been an element of mass production about Singapore’s built environment, partly because when you have to house 82 per cent of the population in functional and affordable housing, creativity is usually the first to go. Even private homes and condominiums – especially those built in the recent age of starchitects – betray a cookie-cutter quality. Architectural writer Patrick Bingham-Hall describes the typical modern Singaporean house as “an elegant cantilevered steel shoebox, clad with timber battens, which contains all the Italian furniture that can be shipped in”. The good news is that architects such as Farm, Look and Formwerkz are shaking things up with quirky, whimsical builds. Meanwhile, the vast gardens and open public spaces proposed for Marina Bay are a thoughtful mix of unusual architectural forms and greenery. “Better architecture appears to come when Singaporean architects are not really concerned with Singapore’s international identity, and when they go local and forget to translate western styles,” Bingham-Hall says. Singaporeans are also developing a protective sense of their past as the recent fight to save the slender Pearlbank apartment block from a sale to private developers (and inevitable demolition) shows. So seriously is the city-state taking this new world view that it’s just inaugurated the Lee KuanYew World City Prize, a biennial international award that recognises individuals and organisations that have made outstanding contributions to “the creation of vibrant, liveable and sustainable urban communities around the world”. — dW

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Best of the modern 1 One Moulmein Rise (pictured right): This slender condominium, completed in 2003, won WOHA many architectural prizes including the Aga Khan Award. Moulmein Rise 2 The Concourse (below): Paul Rudolph’s futuristic monolith is made from octagonal layers pierced with a complicated grid pattern of windows. Beach Road 3 Camden Medical Centre (opposite, top): Richard Meier’s circular white-panelled tower is home to some of Singapore’s most exclusive eye and plastic surgeons. Orchard Boulevard 4 The Colonnade (opposite, middle): Nestled amid expansive green lawns in one of Singapore’s most exclusive neighbourhoods, the façade of Paul Rudolph’s 28-storey condominium bears his hallmarks of interlocking pieces. Grange Road 5 The Supreme Court (opposite, bottom): Lord Foster’s Supreme Court building is capped by a massive flying saucer-like dome. The striking glass, steel and marbled interiors open up into a vast atrium. Supreme Court Lane 6 OCBC Bank (far right): Built in 1976, this was once the tallest building in Southeast Asia. It remains, arguably, one of IM Pei’s finest projects. Chulia Street, Raffles Place 7 Seletar Close House: Through the careful mixing of layered space, massive raw concrete blocks and floor to ceiling windows, Formwerkz architects have created a generously proportioned, yet intimate, house for a family. Completed in 2009. — dW Seletar Close

Footnote 13: Mix masters: The government maintains a strict racial ratio between Malays, Chinese and Indians in its housing blocks to maintain harmonious social cohesion and safeguard racial integration.

Urban project

Rising stars

About fifty per cent of Singapore is covered with vegetation and a further 10 per cent is specially devoted to parks and nature reserves. The crown jewel is the new Gardens by the Bay. Billed as Singapore’s “premier urban outdoor recreation space”, 1.01 sq km of prime waterfront land by Marina Bay will be transformed into three sprawling gardens. The first phase sees the 2011 opening of Gardens at Marina South. The largest of the three gardens, it will include the Conservatory Complex of climate-controlled biomes and SuperTrees; a grove of vertical gardens soaring up 16 storeys. — dW

(Pictured in order of appearance) 1 Zarch Collaboratives Zarch is equally at home designing experimental housing and planning art school cafés as it is creating sprawling set pieces for the National Day Parade. 2 Ministry of Design After stints interning with Rem Koolhaas and Daniel Libeskind, Colin Seah opened his own firm specialising in retrofits of heritage buildings, fashion boutiques and lush resorts. 3 Distillery Studio In less than two years, interior architects Matthew Shang and Paul Semple have assembled a portfolio showing off luxury residences in Singapore, a sleek bookstore in Jakarta and swanky fashion stores in Melbourne. 4 Lekker Design Lekker designs imaginative buildings (such as Stain House), interiors and landscaping. Its principals, Ong Ker-Shing and Joshua Comaroff, are now working on the Museum of Contemporary Horological Art. 5 Takenouchi Webb Naoko Takenouchi, an alumnus of Shigeru Ban, and architect husband Marc Webb’s projects range from the Kaishidhoo resort in the Maldives to the elegant interiors of Singapore’s The White Rabbit restaurant. — dW

The firms

The developers

Singapore’s construction site hoardings show that the plum commissions are still awarded to mega-firms such as DP Architects and RSP Architects. Boutique firms, though, are forging a new East-meetsWest vernacular by employing experienced expatriate and young overseas trained local architects to work on shiny condominiums (SCDA), educational and religious facilities (Forum Architects), high-end regional resorts (Kerry Hill Architects), and hotels and restaurants (Bedmar & Shi). Last year’s Aga Khan winner WOHA has several high- profile projects in the works including two Mass Rapid Transit train stations. — dW

When it comes to high-rise condominiums, Singaporeans have an enduring love affair with marble, steel and glass and the handful of bold-faced developers such as Far East, CDL, Citystate and SC Global are happy to continue delivering these shiny monoliths. But the more human-scaled 19th-century shop-houses in Chinatown’s Ann Siang Hill provide a welcome contrast. The Urban Redevelopment Authority has worked on restoring the area, creating what Lim Eng Hwee, URA’s chief planner, calls “flexible and innovative planning solutions that balance heritage conservation and the needs of contemporary society”. — dW

MRT development Bright, shiny, air-conditioned, spotlessly clean and filled with public art by local artists, the Mass Rapid Transit train system (commonly known as the MRT) is the centrepiece of Singapore’s public transportation system. With most single, one-way trips costing less than S$1.50 (€0.73), the MRT is the transport of choice. It moves 1.8 million passengers each day, though the number is set to rise as a series of new lines open. Five stations on the S$6.7bn (€3.2bn) Circle Line began running in April, but the rest – including Stadium (pictured above) in Kallang, and Bras Basah both by WOHA architects – won’t be fully operational until 2010. In addition, the S$12bn (€5.8bn) Downtown Line will open in 2018. — dW

Public housing for all

An ever-expanding nation

Urban innovator

When Singapore gained independence in 1965, most of the population lived in unsanitary and overcrowded villages and tenements.The then prime minister Lee KuanYew ordered mass rehousing and today 82 per cent of Singaporeans live in a Housing & Development Board (HdB) flat. Frven Lim, senior vice-president of town-planners Surbana International Consultants, says HdB’s emphasis on a balance between affordability, housing policies and design quality “has created spaces for communities and provided high-quality living environments for the general population”. It’s an ethos best seen in developments such as Tao Payoh New Town (above) and the UN World Habitat Award winning Tampines New Town. — dW

A lack of land has seen Singapore reclaim sizeable chunks back from the sea for residential, commercial and recreational use. The numbers are telling. In 1959, Singapore’s land size was around 581 sq km. By 1989, thanks to determined land reclamation efforts, it had grown to 626 sq km. Today, the number is around 700 sq km. Indeed, most of the current major projects, such as the casino resorts on Sentosa and Marina Bay, are being built on reclaimed land, as are the new cargo terminals at Pasir Panjang and the on-going expansion of Jurong Island. — dW

Having made his fortune by the age of 40, Jack Sim decided to dedicate his life to humanitarian causes and set off on a bizarre but single-minded mission to make Singapore’s loos the envy of the world. After achieving remarkable results through his Restroom Association of Singapore, the 52-year-old businessman cast his net wider, founding the World Toilet Organisation to help bring proper sanitation to the 2.6 billion people without access to toilets.“I grew up in a village here and have seen Third-World Singapore, so I know that when toilets get better, life gets better,” he explains. “If poor countries can get sanitation right, they can resolve health issues, which will drive economic growth in the long term.” — BB

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Footnote 14: Single minded: Unmarried people under 35 aren’t allowed to buy state-subsidised public flats because the government doesn’t like younger singles leaving home.

Where Next?

The New monocle Style Guide Next in the monocle special edition series: Style Guide 09 From eyewear to luggage, the artisans, companies and regions to watch. In our October issue, out 17 September 034

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